Bangladeshi Wedding Favors: Blending Tradition With Modernity

Until last August when I attended the marriage ceremony of Natasha, a friend from Dhaka, I thought that gifting wedding favors was an exclusive practice copied from Christian marriage ceremonies in the West. For the first time, I saw it, though with a different connotation, in a traditional Bangladeshi marriage in the Indian subcontinent. When I enquired it from Natasha’s local friends and elders, to my utter surprise, I found that wedding favors have historically been part and parcel of Bangladeshi marriage ceremonies. Right from jewelry and exotic ethnic textiles to fruit baskets and functional gifts are presented to guests. These favors make the marriage ceremony unforgettable and pompous and add to the enriching experience of guests.

The Tradition

The custom of giving wedding favors in a Bangladeshi marriage was present long before it took shape on the American soil. My curiosity to know about this more took me to maternal grandmother of Natasha and a long story unfolded. During the ancient age, the people in the undivided Bengal were among the richest in the Eastern hemisphere. The land was known for its exotic ornaments made from gold and silver, handicrafts, and famed textiles. People were so wealthy that they gave away gifts to guests visiting their homes to celebrate marriages, birth of progenies, and various religious festivals as a symbol of love and goodwill. This was institutionalized in the due course and the occasion of marriage became the ideal time for its greatest manifestation. In the medieval ages, the rich distribute money, gold, silver, ornaments, grains, and clothes during Bangladeshi marriage ceremonies to ensure that people remain happy and bless their children. Though the marriage in Bangladesh has become pompous in the recent year, the choice of favors has been shaped by modern trends, utilitarian thinking, and personal preference of the bride and the groom and their parents.

The Favors

The list of Bangladeshi wedding favors presented includes a long list of items considered to be both valuable and attractive. The favors also vary from importance of persons and their social standing. What I had noticed in Natasha’s marriage ceremony, there exists a clear hierarchy in guests showered with gifts. The parents of the groom, the foremost category, are usually presented with expensive gold jewelry, such as necklace, rings, and bracelet. The best and the foremost gifts are reserved for them only. Nowadays the rich shower expensive cars, diamonds, and glittering watches to flaunt their wealth. The second category includes the maternal and paternal relative from the grooms’ side. They are considered only second to grooms’ parents and receive expensive saris, suit pieces, and expensive gifts. The third category has other guests from the groom’s side. Usually fruit and chocolate baskets and mementos are presented to them as a symbol of respect. A new trend of providing favors in Bangladeshi marriage has also developed to win goodwill of guests invited. While presenting sweets along with invitations cards is a common practice in any marriage in Bangladesh, nowadays departing gifts and mementos are also presented according to the relation with and social status of guests.

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